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Old 09-03-12, 03:19 PM   #1
sandw1
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Humbling First Race Report

Hello,

So I decided to give it a go racing and did my first race today. It was a 40 minute criterium in South Florida. A little background on me, I got into cycling a little over a year ago, originally to supplement my running training but lately cycling has become my primary sport as I have been dealing with running injuries. So although I'm to still a newbie to cycling, I did have a pretty good aerobic base to build on. Two months ago I got a power meter and have been tracking my performance on the Coggan power/kg charts. According to the charts I should be a high-end Cat 3, tactics aside (a big aside, I realize). My weakness is sprinting, where my 5s max is about 1,100 watts (I weigh 162 lbs). My FT is about 300 watts.

So I entered the Cat 5 criterium, and thought I should have an easy time based on where Cat 5 falls in the power/kg chart. Wrong! This was an extremely tough race, and very humbling. In windy conditions (on an entirely flat course), the peloton averaged 23.8 mph. My average watts was 271, normalized 301, for just under 40 minutes. Avg HR was 178 (my max is 195). I went out a bit too aggressively in the beginning and did more than my share of pulling, but after about 8 minutes I settled in to 2nd to 5th place in the peleton for most of the race. There was an unsuccessful breakaway of 3 riders, but one rider broke away early on and ended up lapping the peleton and kicked all our butts. I made a move with 2 laps to go since I knew I wasn't a good sprinter, but that strategy didn't work. The peleton was on my wheel and all the sprinters kicked my butt on the last lap. I ended up finishing in the middle of the peleton.

So here I went from viewing myself as a high-end Cat 3 talent, and I never really had a chance in a Cat 5 race! Is this typical? I feel like these were not beginners. Hits to my ego aside, it was a fun challenging experience and I didn't take a spill. I guess the Cat 4 upgrade will be tougher than I thought.

Jeff
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Old 09-03-12, 03:29 PM   #2
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You did well for your first race, regardless of your expectations.

Most (but not all) people get dropped in their first race, so you're doing well I'd say.

The w/kg chart shows power output, but not experience/smarts.. it will come with time. Keep it up.
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Old 09-03-12, 06:12 PM   #3
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Don't get caught up in the ewang. It's pretty much a waste of time. Concentrate on training. You need speed work. If there is a local time trial series in your area, do it. If you've read the book, then you know you need rest, i.e. periodization. Plan out your next few weeks of work and then take a rest week. Test your power after your rest week. Keep building on speed and endurance. It will pay off. Cat4 is easy to get to, just 10 finishes. Don't rush getting to Cat4. Learn as much as you can as a Cat5. Work on your weaknesses as well as your strengths.
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Old 09-03-12, 06:17 PM   #4
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The categories on the e-wang chart aren't accurate and aren't intended to represent performance potential. Dr Coggan has stated that chart should only be used for power profiling of individual athletes. Also, there are two versions of the chart. The one in the 2nd edition of the book is the newer one.

It's common in my area (NorCal) for riders to have FTPs that are 1-2 categories higher than their actual category.


Edit: +1 to everything Shovelhd says.

Also, you did pretty well for your first time- didn't get dropped, was active in the race, learned something. Most people don't do any of those in their first race.
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Old 09-03-12, 07:10 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by sandw1 View Post
Hello,

So I decided to give it a go racing and did my first race today. It was a 40 minute criterium in South Florida. A little background on me, I got into cycling a little over a year ago, originally to supplement my running training but lately cycling has become my primary sport as I have been dealing with running injuries. So although I'm to still a newbie to cycling, I did have a pretty good aerobic base to build on. Two months ago I got a power meter and have been tracking my performance on the Coggan power/kg charts. According to the charts I should be a high-end Cat 3, tactics aside (a big aside, I realize). My weakness is sprinting, where my 5s max is about 1,100 watts (I weigh 162 lbs). My FT is about 300 watts.

So I entered the Cat 5 criterium, and thought I should have an easy time based on where Cat 5 falls in the power/kg chart. Wrong! This was an extremely tough race, and very humbling. In windy conditions (on an entirely flat course), the peloton averaged 23.8 mph. My average watts was 271, normalized 301, for just under 40 minutes. Avg HR was 178 (my max is 195). I went out a bit too aggressively in the beginning and did more than my share of pulling, but after about 8 minutes I settled in to 2nd to 5th place in the peleton for most of the race. There was an unsuccessful breakaway of 3 riders, but one rider broke away early on and ended up lapping the peleton and kicked all our butts. I made a move with 2 laps to go since I knew I wasn't a good sprinter, but that strategy didn't work. The peleton was on my wheel and all the sprinters kicked my butt on the last lap. I ended up finishing in the middle of the peleton.

So here I went from viewing myself as a high-end Cat 3 talent, and I never really had a chance in a Cat 5 race! Is this typical? I feel like these were not beginners. Hits to my ego aside, it was a fun challenging experience and I didn't take a spill. I guess the Cat 4 upgrade will be tougher than I thought.

Jeff
I'm also a Cat 5 and I raced against a couple of guys who claim, like you, to have a FTP of 300. Right now, that would be a dream for me, however, I've always beaten them on crits, even though I'm not at the level I know I can perform. Concentrate on CP6, make it as high as you can make it. And, duh, yes, the sprint. My CP5s is almost 1350, so, assuming me and you get to the finish line in the same group and I have a clear line, then....other side of the coin, in a TT I cannot light a match next to you.

Like the others have said, you did better than 80% of first time racers. Congrats, and hope you keep racing.
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Old 09-03-12, 07:25 PM   #6
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also extra note: 1,100 5 second is pretty good (like damn most of my sprints at te end of 1/2/3 races are at 700 watts and im in the top 5, got to love junior gears).
moral of the post: a guy wiht a 1000 watt sprint can be an idiot with a 1500 watt sprint.
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Old 09-03-12, 07:27 PM   #7
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You did great for a first race. The fact that you could even think about something other than not getting dropped is a good sign.

Tactics is key. You can take advantage of your threshold. You can even use your 5s power (and I figure you'll be able to stretch that out for a good 10-15s minimum.

A huge thing for me is to use nothing until I want to do something, then I use everything I have. I don't piddle around at the front unless I'm extremely anxious about a break going or the field splitting. Unfortunately I only have one clip from 2012 but I have a bunch from 2010 and a couple from 2011. You can check them out, YouTube sprinterdellacasa. I'll link to a Tuesday Night Worlds type training series that illustrates "holding back".


And one where I don't hold back, unfortunately (that first move killed me). What I didn't know in this race was that someone was feeding us bad info - "18 seconds" was really more like 60 seconds.


My threshold in 2010-now has been about 210w. In races I rarely break 1200w peak. My sprints tend to be 18-19s of 1000-1100w.
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Old 09-03-12, 09:16 PM   #8
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Thanks for all the tips and encouragement. I was probably more worried about crashing than getting dropped. I'll give it another shot. Definitely need to work on tactics. Probably did not conserve energy very well in the race today. Here are some race stats from my powertap (WKO software):

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Old 09-03-12, 09:44 PM   #9
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i'd say next race, go to the race sit in a little relax and try out sprinting. if it doesnt work, think about why it didnt work and work on it. just about anyone can win or place well in a field sprint with the right tactics!
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Old 09-03-12, 09:51 PM   #10
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i'd say next race, go to the race sit in a little relax and try out sprinting. if it doesnt work, think about why it didnt work and work on it. just about anyone can win or place well in a field sprint with the right tactics!
I'll try that next time - thanks for the advice.
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Old 09-03-12, 09:56 PM   #11
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no problems, if u have the ability i would send u some power file to show u my sprinting power
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Old 09-03-12, 11:03 PM   #12
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Thanks for all the tips and encouragement. I was probably more worried about crashing than getting dropped. I'll give it another shot. Definitely need to work on tactics. Probably did not conserve energy very well in the race today. Here are some race stats from my powertap (WKO software):

Wow, you are in Q2 a lot for a crit. I'd expect to see a lot more in Q4....Here is a QA from a P1/2/3 crit I did...My average cadence was 84 (non-zero / off).



Keep at it, like everyone has said, you did great to do this well in your first race.
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Old 09-03-12, 11:09 PM   #13
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Here is a sample QA from a crit, as posted by Hunter Allen on his blog. Funny, how close I was to this example in my time in quadrants...only saw this in hindsight..

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Old 09-04-12, 03:55 AM   #14
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Yeah, I don't really understand how I was in Q2 so much. My cadence is normally in the low to mid 90s. For the entire race, including non-pedaling, my average cadence was 83. How could I be spending so much time in "high force slow pedaling?" Also, the course was completely flat, so no hills.
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Old 09-04-12, 05:23 AM   #15
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You didn't say that there were a lot of corners, but that's one place to get lazy and let your cadence drop. You said it was windy, that's another. You may think that you're strong enough to just mash away, but that will catch up with you. Get used to riding in the drops for most if not all of the race, and get used to shifting as the pack speeds change. My normal cadence in criteriums is in the 95-110rpm range, but that will drop to 85-90rpm during a hard, solo attack. Another thing you might be doing, consciously or not, is racing to the power meter. Don't do that. Many here have advocated that beginning racers tape over their computer display to only show speed and rpm.

Try this. For your next race, do absolutely nothing but sit in for the first half. I mean sit in, like in the front middle of the field, getting plenty of shelter, getting used to other riders being next to you, them passing you, you passing them, etc. Let everything go up the road. At the halfway point, move to the front and do whatever you feel like. I suggest that you roll off the front before a corner, not attack like a banshee which will cause the Cat5 Pavlovian response. Try and get away solo or in a small group.
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Old 09-04-12, 10:13 AM   #16
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You didn't say that there were a lot of corners, but that's one place to get lazy and let your cadence drop. You said it was windy, that's another. You may think that you're strong enough to just mash away, but that will catch up with you. Get used to riding in the drops for most if not all of the race, and get used to shifting as the pack speeds change. My normal cadence in criteriums is in the 95-110rpm range, but that will drop to 85-90rpm during a hard, solo attack. Another thing you might be doing, consciously or not, is racing to the power meter. Don't do that. Many here have advocated that beginning racers tape over their computer display to only show speed and rpm..
Good point about shifting. That may have been why I was spending so much time in Q2. I wasn't shifting very much, so coming out of the corners I had to mash the gears to get up to speed/cadence. Similar scenario when I was reacting (over-reacting) to mini attacks, and changes in pace as you mentioned.

I was in the drops pretty much the whole time, and looking at the power meter wasn't much of an issue since I had to keep my eye on the road. The one time I looked at my power meter for a few seconds I ended up on the grass briefly!
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Old 09-04-12, 10:17 AM   #17
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Eventually you will learn to read the speed and willingness of the field, and you will shift before you need to be in the right gear. This comes with time and experience.
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Old 09-04-12, 02:46 PM   #18
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Raw power is nice, but there's a lot more to successful crit racing than that. At relatively poor fitness, I can hang on in a crit with much stronger guys. At acceptable but not stellar fitness, I'm reasonably competitive with them. I'm talking about riders who might have literally twice as much power at threshold - raw power, not W/kg. The reasons are a combination of tactics and the nexus of my particular abilities, of speed skill and anaerobic power. Much better crit racers than me (I mean, c'mon, I'm a Cat 4) are likewise often successful despite power numbers that aren't necessarily hugely impressive compared to other riders in their fields. And as mentioned, the e-wang chart shouldn't be seen as a realistic guide to how well you will do racing in your category.

Worth mentioning - I think that anyone, given sufficient practice, can become a smarter crit racer. But I'm beginning to suspect that, just as with power at threshold or sprinting speed, there's a certain element to crit racing skill that comes down to talent. I've always been relatively good at it. And I have teammates who, though we talk a lot about racing tactics and staying with a fast pack on a technical course, are just taking longer to pick up skills that have always felt very natural to me. So it's difficult for me to explain to them how to become better at crit racing, because it's not just the obvious stuff, like drafting and not pulling the peloton around constantly. Many of these same teammates simply destroy me in road races with raw strength. But I can place at least as well as they can in criteriums.

My point is, keep at it, and try some road races as well. You'll get better at both, and you'll get an idea of what you prefer - or maybe you'll find that you have the ability to be great at both, which is always nice.
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